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Dec 3 2008   11:19AM GMT

Microsoft exposes open source’s ‘hidden costs’

Bcournoyer Brendan Cournoyer Profile: Bcournoyer

Microsoft has spent a surprising amount of time, effort and money on open source initiatives this year.

At Interop back in April, Bob Muglia spent nearly an entire keynote discussing Microsoft’s interoperability with non-Windows environments. In August, the company invested $100 million in Novell support certificates for customers moving to enterprise-class Linux. Microsoft and Novell unveiled a joint virtualization product in September, and just last month they launched a SUSE Linux management pack.

But don’t let all that fool you into thinking that Microsoft is all lovey-dovey with the open source world. In light of a report that Windows’ market share has dropped below 90%, the company went back on the attack today with a press release titled “Microsoft Gives Businesses Lower TCO Versus Hidden Costs of Open Source.”

The release highlights Speedy Hire, a British tool and equipment rental company that says it will save $1.48 million in five years by migrating from OpenOffice and other open source software to Microsoft Office, Dynamics AX and SQL Server. James Fleming, Speedy Hire’s infrastructure and support manager, says the cost of open source was “exorbitant” and there weren’t enough skilled consultants to rely on when things went wrong. (That’s good news for you Microsoft partners, and something to bring up if one of your customers is thinking about switching to open source.)

The release isn’t just your run-of-the-mill customer case study, though. It includes some pretty harsh shots at open source software, like these closing remarks from Fleming:

Don’t believe the hype about open source. It’s seductive, but misleading, and could lead a company into a mistake they can ill-afford to make in today’s economy.

You save money up front, but over the long haul you’ll pay more. The message is, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Sure, you can get a CD off a magazine cover, stick it in a machine, and there’s your operating system. But if you want to actually do anything with it and make it bulletproof enough to withstand the rigors of corporate use, it’s going to cost a lot of money and require considerable work.

Senior news editor Barb Darrow questioned Microsoft’s relationship with the open source community back in January, and despite all the progress made this year, it’s clear those questions still remain.

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